2014 - The Year of MORE

Obviously, I'm not so good at blogging consistently. But, one blog I've always done is the New Years Resolutions one! I'm guessing that's half because it's something I do anyways - reflect and plan for the new year, and half because I'm off of work and taking a breath during that time of year. So, here it is!

As usual, I looked at last year's resolutions and evaluated if I managed them or not. I updated that post with results, rather than ask you to read them here.

Moving right along to my 2014 goals.

This year, my word is MORE. I want to do more. I want to love more, give more, seek more, move my body more, cook at home with the kids more. I want to write more, and always read more. I want to laugh more and play more.

Along with this comes LESS. I want to own less, complain less, yell less. I'm focusing on the MORE because that's the positive. I want to focus on the positive, and trust that the LESS will just happen right along with it.

I made myself a little visual, and I thought I'd share with you. I'm going to put this on my mirror, by my desk, by my alarm clock, on the fridge, and in the car. Feel free to use it as you wish. I apologize for the lack of ability here. I'll learn.

I know, I know, you're supposed to make goals that are measurable, to you know, measure your results. This is what feels right this year. Just focus on doing more of the important things. Besides, how am I going to measure laugh or seek or love?

What are your resolutions or goals for the New Year? What have I missed that you're doing MORE in 2014?

Birth Story: #5

It had been weeks. Weeks of that same annoying, sometimes painful sensation. Weeks of the same hope, rising, despite my resolution to not get excited. Weeks of wondering, waiting. Weeks of exhaustion and painfully swollen feet and ankles.

It was September, and I was full-term pregnant with my 5th baby in 8 years. I wanted nothing more than to have that precious little baby out of my body. People said things to me like, "Oh, once she's out, you'll wish she was back in." I just stared at them with dead eyes when they said that. This was not my first rodeo. I hate being pregnant. There's about 27 minutes of the entire pregnancy that I enjoy. I actually enjoy labor and birth more. With labor and birth, the end is nigh. The pain is intense, but it will be over soon. And, every single time, I've told myself, "If you just get through this one, you don't ever have to do this again." This time I meant it. Just as much as I did last time, but this time my husband had a better doctor.

So, on September 18th, when I started feeling that tightening of muscles again, I told myself I wouldn't believe it. I didn't even tell my husband. I told him I was going to bed early because I was tired. He looked at me funny - it wasn't his first rodeo either - and asked if he should start cleaning the house for the midwife.

We were planning to induce the next day. I don't really remember my due date - either because she was my 5th baby, or because I know it's just a wild estimate of one day within a month of possible days, I don't know. I think I was pushing 42 weeks though. Maybe 41+3? Either way, I had no qualms about inducing. My sweet midwife had been putting me off for several days. At the time, I believed her stories, but now, I think she was testing me to see if I could try to wait just one more day, just one more day.

The day before, on September 17th, we were going to induce, and another midwife - who is now a friend - called me and said she hadn't seen Sherry in awhile and wanted to take her out and could I please, please put off trying to induce labor. I said yes, and then hung up and cried and cried.

I don't know for sure, but I think that Sherry knew that I needed to wait, and she wanted to see how badly I wanted to induce. I'm so glad she did. Whether it was Sherry's brilliance, or just that things working out the way they were intended, I'm so thankful.

We couldn't induce on the 18th because that was a Sunday, and my husband was a pastor. Not happening. So, it was supposed to be Monday sometime.

Sunday night, as I had the same contractions, I also had the butterfly feeling that this was really, truly IT. I knew it in my heart, but I refused to believe it. I laid down and tried to sleep.

Of course, I had to pee. 10 minutes later, I had to pee again. I thought, "That's weird. Even for a hugely pregnant girl!" I began to realize that I was "peeing" a little with each contraction. Could my water have broken?

That may sound like a weird question for a mama who's already birthed 4 kids - 3 of them naturally, 2 in her own home, where surely she'd be aware of her water breaking... right?

My water had never broken on its own before. Kids 1, 2, and 4 all had the water broken before going into "real" labor, because I was miserable and wanted to speed things along. Kid 3 had the water broken as he was crowning. He might have been born in the caul (on a full moon! lol), but the midwife asked if she could apply pressure to the bag of waters, in order to make delivering him easier. He still has the world's largest head, and I'm not inclined to believe superstitions, so I'm immensely glad she did that. I had discussed in length with Sherry about how maybe my body just needed my water to be broken. I was ok with that.

Except, looking back, I realize that this time, my body did it all on its own. I needed no help to bring her here, only hands to help catch her. That is something so empowering, so thrilling, I have no words. This body is not broken. It can do things I didn't even believe it could do. To be clear, I did not think my body was broken, not in the least. But to realize its power, its strength, was beyond what I assigned to it, based on my fears, was one of the best lessons I've been given in this life.

Back to that night. I told Scott to call the birth tub lady, and maybe the photographer. I already knew the tub could be set-up for a day or two with no issues, so I felt comfortable with that. I was texting my midwife. I still didn't want to believe that it might really be that I was in labor, and just be disappointed again. I didn't want to call all these people in my house to have them look at me, them patient, but me feeling as if I should be progressing. I believe that's why #4 was born so early (37 weeks). Perhaps, if I had waited to call people, it might have been days or weeks before her birthday. I decided that this is what these birth professionals are paid for, they were used to that aspect of their job, and, moreover, they were women that cared about me, and would not be mad even if they drove all the way to my house for a false alarm. I told Scott to go ahead and call the photographer.

I stood in the shower, still unsure if my water had actually broken, despite gushes of water with each contraction. I couldn't stand anywhere else, even, except in the shower. Thankfully, it was the perfect place. I laid my arms on the bathroom counter, my head on my crossed arms and swayed my hips from side to side to get through the contractions. Scott mostly left me alone, which was what I wanted. I eventually moved to the bedroom floor, on hands and knees, no longer worrying about amniotic fluid on the carpet. At some point, Naomi (the birth tub lady, and also a doula, and midwife-in-training), asked if she could set up the birth kit. She put one of the chux pads (they look exactly like puppy house training pads), under my knees. I continued to sway, and continued to text Sherry. She asked if she needed to come now, I wasn't sure, but I couldn't text her back because a contraction was coming. After that contraction, I figured, if I couldn't text through the contraction, it was probably a safe time for the midwife to come over. It was about 11:30 , I believe, and I had finally accepted that I was in labor.

Naomi came in my room and said that the tub was set-up, but it didn't have much water in it. I could still get in, because at least it would be warm, and maybe provide some comfort. Scott helped me walk out to the living room where it was set up. As I walked out, I said, "Hi" to the photographer, who was mostly a Facebook friend. It was awkward for about 13 seconds, and then it was just fine. I'm so glad she got these pictures for us.

I took one look at that tub, with its walls as high as my hipbones and told Scott simply, "There's no way." before leaning on something in front of me for another contraction. I knew Scott was starting to get nervous, but Naomi just continued about her business, and cooed things like, "You're doing great, mama." "Gooooood." "Good breaths. Just breathe that baby out." Naomi was not even my doula, but I will forever love her for those words of encouragement. (Ladies, you want a doula. I promise. They will be so much more level-headed than your husband, and often, know exactly what to say, by some gift of womanly intuition.) Scott rubbed my back, and put the icepack on my lower back, where I always feel the brunt of contractions.
I have photos somewhere without the watermark. But, I don't know where they are, and I don't mind giving a shout-out to my amazing birth photographer! 

After awhile of this, I told Scott, "You're going to have to catch her, because she's coooooooooommmmiiinnng." That last word was caught up in a contraction-starting-to-push-moan. I heard him say, "uhh... uhh..." and I could tell he was frantic, and looking around, for what, I don't know. Maybe Sherry, who lived a good 45 minutes from our house.

Let me pause again to say, my husband was 100% on board with my homebirths. But, he had told me he had no interest in catching, and no interest in cutting the cord. He was absolutely fine with that. My best friend cut the cord with #4.

I just said over and over to myself, "Naomi is here. She's a doula. She's experienced. She won't let my baby fall on the floor. She won't let my baby fall on the floor."

My body started to push on its own. I moaned through the contractions. Some part of my brain said, "I can't do this." A louder part of my brain responded, "Of course you can." It was at that moment that I fully understood the power of my thoughts for the first time.

As I was pushing, I was aware of Scott behind me. Next, Tiffanie, the other midwife, arrived, and I began to feel more comfortable starting to push. I was trying to push slowly, because I always tear, after that first episiotomy. Then, I heard my front door opening, and Sherry's voice behind me almost immediately. She arrived just in time to catch the baby. She held her through to me, and said, "Meet your baby." I picked her up, and just like all the others, said, "Hi! Oh! Hi baby! It's so good to see you!" and then to the people around me, "I did it! I did it!" I remember Tiffanie being closest, and her warm smile as she said, "Yes! You did!"
  This time, we had only just barely chosen a name, so I looked at her, and asked her what her name should be. She confirmed that the name we had chosen hours earlier was the perfect one. It was one I had liked since we first started thinking about names.
#1 had asked us to see #5's birth. She had seen #4 be born. She was upset we didn't wake her until after baby girl was born, but she immediately fell in love. 
As I've mentioned, I feel like all my births have taught me things. This birth taught me to trust my body, and at the same time, that I have control over my thoughts. I can't even imagine my life without those important lessons. Thank you baby girl!
Happy 2nd birthday!
Taken the night before her birthday. (Her sister cut her hair a few weeks ago.) 

Birth Story, A Decade Later

I woke up early. I wasn't feeling anything other than jitters. I was supposed to go in for an induction that day! The day before, they told me that because my induction was "elective" and they had a full floor, I would have to wait. I told the nurse, "No. Mine's not elective. My doctor said I had to have an induction as soon as possible." She politely told me that mine was considered elective, and I asked if my insurance would still cover it, knowing that they didn't cover many "elective" procedures. She said they would. I was so confused at my non-elective-elective induction, but I trusted my doctor, and did what she said. I called again, on September 3rd, 3 days before my due date. They weren't sure if they'd have room, they'd call me. I hung up disappointed and upset. How could they just tell me to wait? My doctor said it was urgent to have the baby!

I know now that I was in no danger. I was dilated to 3cm, and my water was unbroken. She told me I was at risk of an infection. The risk of infection increases with every dilation-check they do, but to limit those was never brought up as an option. I was never told of my Bishop's Score - an indication of how likely it is that an induction will work, based on several different factors - or even that such a thing existed, probably because mine would have been so low to recommend no induction. 

I signed in to the hospital, got hooked up to all the machines that go ping! at about 9am, and settled in. My contractions weren't strong. My back hurt a lot, but I thought it was the bed and my huge belly. My family all came to the hospital, someone picked up my mother-in-law from the airport, who happened to be flying in that day. Around 5 o'clock, the doctor said that I was finally at 5cm, far enough along that they could break my water and speed up the process. So we did.

Immediately, I started to feel those contractions that I hadn't been feeling. I was unprepared for the pain, and although I had planned to go "as long as possible" without pain medications, I asked for the epidural within the hour.

This is why I highly recommend childbirth classes and a doula to every new mom. You need to be prepared. You need to have an idea of what to expect, and what to do when the pain comes. Even if you plan on asking for the epidural the moment you're in the hospital room, you should have something in your back pocket in case you do get to experience natural labor. Yes, I said "get to" - it is one of the most empowering experiences of my life. 

The anesthesiologist joked about how he was about to head out, but his wife would have made him turn around and come back if she knew he'd left me there, asking for him. What's funny is, while I was waiting for him, I did what I did in all my other births - I took it one contraction at a time. I told myself to just deal with that one, and not worry about the next. It never occurred to me that I could do that all the way through labor - until I did it with my second-born.

The next few hours were somewhat boring. We all hung out in the hospital room. I kept asking my dad to lift my foot up for me and set it right. I could feel enough that it was slightly uncomfortable when my toe pointed forward, but not enough that I could move it. At about 9 or 10 pm, I realized I was snapping at people, and they were all seriously annoying me. My sweet daddy came close, patted my leg, and gently asked if maybe it was time for all these people to get out of my room. A lightbulb formed above my head. OH! Maybe that's why I want all these people to Just. Shut. UP. Maybe that's why I want to hit some of them in the face. Maybe I'm in the middle of birthing a baby, and my body needs to focus! haha! Having been through several more births now, I know that when I get to transition (the part of labor right before pushing, the most intense part), that when I'm in a contraction, I want everyone in the room to Just. Shut. UP.

Everyone left, except Scott. The nurses came to check me, and said, Yay, you're at 10cm! Time to push! I remember asking what to do, how to push, when to push. The nurse kept saying to do what my body told me to. That would have been fantastic advice. Except, I couldn't hear my body. I felt like I had put a muzzle on it. It couldn't send messages into my brain to tell me when to push or how. I would ask the nurses, one who was holding my leg up towards my chest, "Now?" as they watched the machine that goes ping! contraction monitor. I tried to read their faces and guess when the right time was. I tried to find a rhythm that felt like it was what I was supposed to do.

I feel now, like we've done ourselves a terrible disservice by not watching our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends labor and birth (and breastfeed). We have no idea what it looks like. No idea of the wide variation of normal, and we - at least, I - try to do what we think it should be like, based on a few scripted scenes. 

Over and over again, the doc would come in. She would ask how we were doing, tell me "twenty more minutes" until she'd have to do a c-section. After an hour or so, it became "ten more minutes" every time she came in. I still have no idea why I escaped a c-section that day. She is still one of the local docs with one of the highest c-sec rates in town (right at 50%, I believe - if half the women that come into your general obstetrics office are not capable of birthing on their own, there's something wrong). It was late, she'd been on-call, she'd been waiting on me all day. I couldn't even tell you why I didn't want one. I knew the recovery was a bit harder, but it seemed very normal to me.I had friends who told me they preferred it, even. Their opinions made sense to me. But I knew I didn't want one.

After hours of pushing, the doc came in to deliver the baby. She gave me an episiotomy, which is the exact place I tore with every baby after that, even my gentlest births. She had to use the vacuum to suction the baby's head and pull her out.

At the moment her head was delivered, Scott said, "WHOA! There's her face!"

Babies are usually born face-down. This allows them easier passage through the birth canal. A face-up baby usually causes painful back labor, which would explain why I didn't think my contractions were very strong at first, and why, when my water was broken and they intensified on top of the pitocin, when I had no plan to deal with pain, I so quickly wanted an epidural.  

They whisked her over to the pediatrician, because she had passed meconium. She didn't cry. I distinctly remember the OB telling me, "That's ok. We don't want her to cry yet." I heard her cry a few moments later. I asked Scott to go check on her while they stitched me up. I had no idea that she had been in danger, and asked Scott if she had red hair. While the doc spent 45 minutes stitching up some wicked tears, I also distinctly remember the OB asking the pediatrician how the baby was. They were married, and the pediatrician was one of my Starbucks regulars. He said, "She's fine. We had to baggy-baggy a little," while making a squeezing motion in front of his face, like the breathing mask, "but she's fine now." They never mentioned to me or my husband that she was in any danger.

I can't decide if that was harmful or beneficial. It was only a short time, and it might have worried us unnecessarily. Maybe they didn't even have time to say anything, but just reacted quickly, and handled the situation. I still felt somewhat deceived by the whole thing. They never explained her Apgar scores, or that she was not doing well right off the bat. Was that to protect us? Or protect them? 

I finally held my baby at least an hour after she was born. I hadn't even laid eyes on her until that point. Thankfully, that was one of many things that I never experienced again. I would have told you then that her birth was fine. I even defended it vehemently once to a doula, and had to go back and apologize. I knew though. I think I knew even then that something was off. I had a blind faith in that doctor. In her goodness, in her knowledge, in her abilities and experience. I will never have that kind of blind faith again. Yes, we turned out fine. But that birth story is filled with anxiety, fear, and frustration. It is so different from my other birth stories. I used to wonder if it affected my relationship with her, and I worked very hard to be sure that I didn't treat her or look at her any differently than the children whose birth stories I love.

While I don't love her story, I do love my journey. This experience led me to look for something more. It led me to doulas, and then to midwives, and to homebirth, and waterbirth. It led me to want to share in that experience with other women. It led me to the woman I am today. There is a point in my life, somewhere between the births of my first two children, that I chose to walk an unconventional path. Without any one of my births, I would be different. Even aside from each of my beautiful, lovely children, I cherish their births for what they did in me.

Happy tenth birthday sweet baby girl!

You're Going To Miss This

I had one of those moments of bliss today. My baby wanted me, and I was able to just sit with her. I was with people who could help with bigger kids, and no afternoon plans. It's been a busy week for us, with many arms holding this little girl. At that moment, all she wanted was me. And the bliss was, at that moment, I wanted the same thing.

"You're going to miss this." That phrase has been both vilified and held high. It's been a battle cry and a thing to be scorned. 

In the trenches filled with dirty diapers and dishes and laundry, I've thought, "I most certainly will NOT miss this." It's hard, so hard, when people tell you that in the hard moments. It's like the one time you feel it might actually be justified to punch an old lady right in the throat. 

Yet, we say it to ourselves to remind us to take joy in these small moments. It is a mantra for some, to remind them of the importance of these little years. 

I've been wondering: which approach is right? The one that says, "No. You don't remember what this is like. You don't remember the days of bickering, and answering questions for literally hours' worth of daylight. Or what it's like to be so exhausted you cry over spilled milk." Or the approach that says, "Suck every bit of joy out of these moments, because once they're gone, they're gone." I've wondered if one is the prompting of God, and the other my selfish heart. In different groups of mom-friends, I've been dealt guilt for either of those sides. I've wondered which of those moms is more true to me? 

The answer is simple. They're both right. They're both me. We can believe both of those statements, even at the same time. So often, without meaning to, we make problems where they don't exist. We create unnecessary divisions among moms. You don't have to choose to be just a snarky mom, coming up with examples of things you won't miss. And you don't have to just be a sunny skies, enjoy-every-moment type of mom. You can be both. 

Beth Woolsey talks often about "Both/And." Motherhood is both wonderful and difficult. Vacations with kids are both ridiculously stressful and amazingly fun. (I know I link to her a lot. What can I say? I feel we're kindred spirits, fighting the same fight and laughing at the same ridiculous things. As if to prove it, I wrote that vacation line before her last post. About Vacation. Being exactly what I said there.)

"You're going to miss this," Is both infuriating and enlightening.  It's okay if some days I think, "I will never, never ever, never in my life, miss potty-training." And it's great if I can stop and say, "You're going to miss this someday. Stop and enjoy it now," when one of my kids just wants some of my full attention. 

Today, I'm letting my almost-2-year old baby nap in my arms. Because it's something we both want. A few nights ago, all I wanted was for her to just freaking go to sleep. Both of those are okay. I won't miss the nights when we're both exhausted and needing different things. I will miss sweet snuggles and light snores on a lazy afternoon. And that's okay. I can be both of those moms.

More and more, I'm realizing it's all about Balance. It's okay to be both of those moms, but I don't want to be either one ALL the time. For me, one of those moms is bitter, and the other becomes resentful. (I understand that some moms are better focusing on one side over the other, I'm just talking about me here.) When I allow myself the freedom to feel what I feel, and be okay with it, I also give myself the ability to move out of it. If I get caught up in a cycle of guilt and shame over what my feelings truly are, I can't escape. When I've accepted that it's okay to not enjoy every single moment, I have more energy to enjoy the moments I really do want to remember. Sometimes, just being snarky and honest is what helps in the grumpy moments.

So, for me, the idea of Mommy Wars takes another blow. I'm both those moms. I'm snarky and joyful. Grumpy and reverent. Now that I think of it, I'm more than okay with it. I'm happy to have the experience of both. I'm glad to give myself the freedom to take the knowledge that each view offers. 

What about you? How do you balance both views?
I'll try to believe you if you say you're one or the other. Really, I will. 

I'm Going on a Diet! But It's Not What You Think.

Today is July 1st. That means the first half of the year is over. How is everyone doing on their New Year's Resolutions? Most of us have forgotten about them, much less accomplished close to half. I shared my New Year's Resolutions with you guys back in January. I'd say I'm doing ok on them. I'm definitely doing better at enjoying the moment I'm in and focusing on the little things. I've been reading a classic each month, although several times it's taken me into the next month to finish (still working on June's Little Women as we speak). That's fine with me. You guys know I absolutely haven't been writing as much as I wanted, and still want. to do. I'll keep working on it. I'm still fighting a writer's block that I can't seem to put my finger on, as well as battling the clock.

Now, the typical one - get healthier/lose weight. I haven't lost any weight this year, and it's been driving me crazy. I haven't exercised but once or twice in the last two months. But, I have been paying attention to a lot of fitness and health-related things. So, I've decided to go on a diet. A very strict, no exceptions allowed kind-of diet. If I mess up, I'll lift my chin, square my shoulders and do something to make up for the mistake I made. There will be no cheat days. No vacations. This diet will be in force every minute of every day, so that it will become my "normal." I will not set aside times to indulge. I know I'll slip up, but I'll get right back on track ASAP. If any of you are like me, you're thinking: that's ridiculous. You can't do a diet like that. You'll quit in a week, 2 tops. If I were talking about food, you'd be right (except that I wouldn't make it 2 weeks, ever.)

I'm going to go on a diet from negativity as it pertains to my body. (Notice I can't give up all negativity. Snark is just too much fun sometimes.) I am going to choose to see the positive. I'm going to love my body. This does mean that I'll make healthy choices, and I'll exercise. But those two things are not my only goal. My goal is to love this body, as is. I do want some physical changes to occur, because I am unhealthy. I believe I will become more physically healthy. More than that, I know that mental changes will occur. Before I spend any more time worrying about my physical health, I'm going to change my mental health. If nothing physical changes, then I'll be better prepared to make physical changes happen.

I'm going to be making a list of things that I like about my body. From the way it looks to the things it does. This body carried and birthed 5 babies. It can help other women to do the same. It can run. It can carry sleepy toddlers up the stairs and to their beds. It can prepare food for my family. It can swim. It nourished all my babies with breastmilk for varying amounts of time. It can hike up mountains. It can do yoga and dance and all sorts of other movements. It can clean the house. It can walk with the dogs. There are so many things it can do that are so much more important than what size pants it can fit into. [You might notice that list is all about what it can do. There aren't many things I like about the way my body looks. I love my hair, but that sorta seems like cheating when we're talking about loving your body. I'm going to change this. I'm going to discover things that I love about my body.]

So, for the next 6 months, I'm committing to speaking and thinking no negativity about my body. Going further, I'm committing to speaking and thinking positive things about my body. If I have a negative thought, I'm going to replace it with a positive one. I'm going to ignore shame-based "fitspiration" stuff like this (there are other, good images on that site, too, like this) and focus on loving my body as is, for what it can do right now (on my FB page I'll share a few other pages I like to follow). Additionally, I'm going to make sure my kids see that I love my body. One of them asked me recently when he would have to start thinking about losing weight. I can't describe how sad that makes me. He thinks that's just something that adults do. I want to model for them a healthy lifestyle, including loving themselves.

Part of loving my body, for me, has to be about making healthy choices. I feel better when I exercise and practice clean eating. That is one method for me to love my body. But, I will make no rules or lists or goals as far as what or how much to eat or exercise. I believe that once I have the freedom to make choices just because I want to, not because I should, that I will make the better choices and not be resentful about it. I may decide to track calories and nutrients at some point, because I don't think I get enough calories most days (any Weight Watchers leader will tell you that it's common among overweight people). For now, the only thing I'm restricting or changing is my perspective.

If you've been with me for awhile, you might have noticed that changing my perspective is sort-of a theme around here. I've been working on changing my perspective for a long time now, from the day I felt God told me "What you dwell on will become your reality," to changing the words I use and even the name of the blog. I've thought about it a lot as it relates to how I see things outside of me. Lately, I've really been convicted about the way I see myself. Now, I'm going to change that too. If someone gave me flowers, I wouldn't dream of saying they were ugly because they had thorns. I wouldn't dream of pointing out the small imperfection on one petal. I would relish their beauty, glossing over the imperfections as part of the beautiful whole. I would celebrate its petals and enjoy the purpose of its thorns. I'm going to give myself the same consideration as the rose. 

Anybody with me? Ready to start a diet for the second half of the year?

Less-Than-Crafty: Design Your Own Mug

Ok, so you've probably seen the Pinterest picture of a hand-designed mug, and it says something like, "Just write with a sharpie and bake at 350!" Right? This is my thought process the first time I saw that:

"OOH! I have tons of quotes I could put on mugs! Birthday presents for everyone! Christmas! With biscotti! YAY!


But who wants a mug with my chicken scratch on it?

(sigh of resignation)

I suppose I could pay $29.95 for someone on Etsy to custom make me one..."

So, days, weeks, months went by, and one day, it hit me! So, here's my tutorial for the less-than-cutesy among us if you want to design your own mug. Just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week! (I'm going to just apologize up front for the poor quality of the photos. I'll learn how to do better, I really will.)

Materials needed:

  • Oven-safe mug (check thrift or dollar stores)
  • Sharpie or Sharpie Paint Pen (I used the regular Sharpie, but I think the process is the same, check the paint pen packaging if you're unsure.)
  • tape
  • Computer with internet access and word processing software
  • Printer and paper

1.Obviously, you have to choose your quote first.

If you know the gift-recipient's favorite book or author, you can go to www.goodreads.com and look for quotes. (Log in. Click the drop-down menu next to "Explore" and choose "Quotes".) For my sister's birthday, I chose the following quote: "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic. - Albus Dumbledore" My sister is a writer, and a huge Harry Potter fan, so I knew this quote was perfect for her. [Technically speaking, the author of the book is who the quote should be attributed to, no matter what character says it. However, I knew hoped that my sister would agree that the quote is so much better coming from Dumbledore than J.K. Rowling.]

Don't forget to consider song lyrics, plays/movies, and poetry!
Some good quotes for teachers are:
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. - Henry Adams
The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. - Unknown {Can I change "book" to "test"??}
I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well - Alexander the Great
It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference. - Tom Brokaw
They will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou
Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts, since the medium is the human mind and spirit. - John SteinbeckDisclaimer: The only one of these I fact-checked is the Angelou quote.

Ok, so that should have been the easy part.

2. Find a font that you like and download it. I usually use http://www.1001freefonts.com/ . It's got tons of fonts, and, they're all free (they named it really well, don't you think?). Follow the directions on the site to install it on your computer. This link has links to directions for different types of computers.  

3. Once you've chosen and installed, open your word processing software and write the quote in the font. 

4. Then, play with it a bit. Make important words larger than less-important words. You also have the option to  print out the different words separately and arrange them in that "subway" style, or to simply print them in a line. You can even use different fonts together like this style, or just change the font sizes like here. Look around on the internet to see different displays of quotations. BUT, this is important: if a product is for sale, do not simply rip it off. Use it for inspiration, but don't steal someone else's intellectual property. 

5. Print it out, and place it on the cup to make sure your size and placement are good. Use regular, old printer paper, or tracing paper if you have it. Do not use thick paper! If you're like me, you'll have to change things and print again a few times to get it the way you want it

6. Once you're certain you have the words where you want them, tape them onto the mug. You may choose to cut the paper into small strips and do one part at a time, so that the paper fits onto the curve of the mug. Again, play with it until you have it the way you want it. 

7. Use your sharpie to carefully color over the words. This should allow the sharpie to bleed through, faintly, onto the mug. In the picture above, I have just started to color the words. 

8. Carefully remove the paper and use the outline to fill in the words. Only peel off one section at a time, or tape a new, clean piece of paper over any words that your hand might touch while tracing. This will keep it from smudging. I left the top paper on while I did the bottom. Then, I retaped the bottom to trace the top. Set the paper you removed in front of you to refer to as you fill in.

As you can see, you only have an outline, but it should be enough to fill in without having to truly freehand the writing. 
After tracing

9. Once you have all your tracing done, you can erase any mistakes with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. 

10. This step is a little different than some of the Pinterest tutorials.  Set the mug in the oven BEFORE turning it on, and heat to 350*. When the oven is hot, let it "cook" for 30 minutes, and then turn off the oven, leaving the mug in there. Let it cool down in the oven. Let sit for 24 hours before washing. Gently handwash only. 

I gave my sister her present in December, and she says it still looks great! If you have any other helpful hints for this project, leave it in the comments! 

Going Solo

I'm planning a solo trip to Zion this weekend, to do some hiking, writing, and reading (and, let's face it, uninterrupted sleeping).

Two days of making decisions for only me, not sharing my food, listening to whatever music I want, and not handling other people's bodily fluids.

Two days of communion with my Maker, pouring out my soul on paper, thinking until my brain hurts, reading until my eyes ache, breathing fresh air, enjoying simple natural beauty, believing that my legs will get me just a little farther, to be rewarded with the views.

What are you doing for yourself this weekend?

P.S. My husband is encouraging me to do this, volunteering to keep all the kids by himself for over 48 hours. Isn't he amazing?

Coming Out...

I saw these two images this morning:

From The Federalist Papers

From Human Rights Campaign

So, I decided it's time for me to "come out," so to speak. As a Christian In Support of Gay Marriage. First, my reasons:

  1. Our country, and our government, is founded on freedom. It is NOT founded on any one religion, despite what many Christians seem to believe. Our Constitution guarantees that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What's unwritten is that these guarantees are true regardless of the individual's beliefs, race, or sexual orientation. As a whole, we believe this phrase applies to all races now, although 150 years ago, you would hear much of the same argument we're hearing today. Simply, I believe in our Constitution, and I believe our Constitution would allow these rights to all individuals (with the obvious exception of protecting children, which, if you're interested in, I'll give you some resources for in a minute).
  2. Aside from marriage falling under "the pursuit of happiness," do you realize that there are countless other issues that these couples must face?
    • Homosexual couples are often denied the right to visit each other in the hospital, even with domestic partnership laws. A woman here locally was not allowed to have her partner with her while she was experiencing a miscarriage, and we have domestic partnership laws protecting that. Regardless of your dogma, a person should be able to have the person who loves and supports them the most in their time of need. 
    • Employers are required to allow sick leave to take care of a spouse or family member. Individuals could lose their jobs by choosing to stay home for their partner. 
    • They would  lose out on any financial benefits they would normally receive if their partner dies. For married couples, even without a will, the spouse gets many benefits automatically. 
    • Taxes become incredibly complicated and expensive.
    • Lots of things are more expensive: from legally changing your names to renting a car.
    • For more, go here.
It's inhumane to deny consenting adults these things, regardless of your religious views. Martin Luther King, Jr, who is, I believe, one of the best preachers of our time, also said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." 

Even if you disagree with my politics, here's one thing you can get behind: There are people, children, dying of disease, starving, and/or forced into slavery, including sexual slavery. Why are we wasting our time sticking our noses in other adults' personal lives, and not batting an eye at all the injustice in the world? 

I love these lyrics from Tenth Avenue North's song, "Losing": 
Why do we think that hate's gonna change their heart?
We're up in arms over wars that don't need to be fought
But pride won't let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but just to burn them down 
We think pain is owed apologies and then it'll stop
But truth be told it doesn't matter if they're sorry or not

The line that says "We build bridges up, but just to tear them down" - I thought it said, "We build bridges up, but You're tearing them down." I like that better. 

Christians, if you hear nothing else I say today, hear this: Hate will not change anything for the better. Love will. 

It doesn't matter if you believe homosexuality is wrong. What I'm saying is that it's worth it to protect all people's freedoms. Also, there are so many other things you can be spending your time and energy on that truly help people that need you. 

If you're interested in taking a stand against evil today, or any day, consider loving "the least of these."

Excellent organizations:  
  • Compassion International  - "You can release a child from poverty in Jesus' name." There are many other child sponsorship groups; choose the one you're most comfortable with. I chose Compassion so that we could write to, and receive letters from, our sponsored child.
  • A21 - "We exist to abolish injustice in the 21st century." (focuses on human trafficking)
  • YoungLives - "In Young Life, we have the privilege of extending Jesus Christ’s love to kids as they are, where they are. For high school and middle school girls who are expecting or are raising a child on their own, that love takes the form of a program called YoungLives."
  • Three Square - "55% of children in [Clark County School District] are enrolled in free and reduced-price lunch programs based on their income." Or, your local shelter. (Our church partners with Three Square and a local middle school to provide food to families in need. It's really amazing to see.)
  • The Cupcake Girls - In Nevada and Portland, Oregon, they provide "non-judgmental support, consistent caring, and messages of faith, hope and love" to women working in brothels or the adult-entertainment industry. 
Some simple things you can do:
  • When you buy chocolate or coffee, choose Fair Trade Certified. (More info, with videos for you auditory learners!) It's great to buy Fair Trade whenever possible, but these are two of the worst industries when it comes to enslaving children. 
  • Love and support the people around you: the mom that's having a hard time, the newly widowed, the child who needs a little more attention (yours or not), the person struggling with their faith.
  • If you can't make a donation of time or money, just "like" these groups on Facebook. Share their images and statuses, and make people aware that these things are happening. 
  • Consider how you think and talk about people who are not like you. Is it loving? See here and here
  • Stop. Being. Judgmental. (particularly about things that don't matter much) There are very few people in your life that you to whom you have the right to be judgmental. Pretty much just close family and close friends. These people may benefit from you pointing out something they might need to work on. Basically, if you wouldn't feel comfortable telling them they need to exercise more, you shouldn't feel comfortable telling them to change or believe something else. 
  • Extend grace to all people - starting with you - your kids, your spouse, your friends, random Facebook people, that blogger, even that crazy politician from "the other side."
These are just a few options. What charities do you support? What do you do to make the world a more loving place? 

P.S. You're welcome to disagree with me respectfully. All comments must be approved before they are published. Hateful language will not be published. Respectful disagreements will be. Imagine you're at my house, talking with me, our friends, and my LGBT friends before you write. Because, basically, you are. :)

(Edited to add: I do think, however, that churches and clergy that do not believe gay marriage is right in God's eyes should not be forced to perform these marriages. I believe that should fall under freedom of religion.)

All The Things! Christian-style

In church Sunday, a few Sundays ago, the pastor said that he sat down once and listed 130-something things that he felt were pressing on his time. He was teaching about abiding in Christ, and learning to focus on being with God more than doing for God. 

I decided to make my own list, of all the things I've felt that I should DO as a good little Christian girl. Some of these things I've long since gotten over, and some still hit me hard. Some I still believe are worthwhile. All of these things I truly believed were God's truth at one point or another in my life. I heard them from various people, and I am not in any way saying this list reflects anyone's thinking but my own. They were all received from different places, and mixed together in my head. Amplify some of these by 75% because I felt like pastors' wives needed to do these things really really well perfectly. I'd challenge you to do the same, and evaluate what God really is asking of you.

  1. Listen to Christian music ONLY. (While I would never have said these words, I always felt guilty changing the station to a secular one.)
  2.  Read my bible every day morning. If it's not in the morning, it's just not good enough.
  3. Give to the needy, but only through the church.
  4. Pray over my children and my husband.
  5. Memorize scripture.
  6. Never swear. Not even when you stub your toe so hard that you break it. 
  7. Don't drink alcohol. That stuff that Jesus served at a wedding was really just juice
  8. While I was never told not to dance, the church I had my wedding reception at didn't allow dancing (see above video, start at 1:25 for both). I'm still pissed about that. I didn't get to dance with my husband or my daddy. At the time, I accepted it (grudgingly). 
  9. While we're on the Duggars: Don't use hormonal birth control. (I know, I know, 5 kids, hahaha, joke's on me.)
  10. Get married in a church, even if you would love to be married outdoors, where you feel like God's physical presence is just beyond your reach and every thing you can see cries out for a Creator. That's not good enough.
  11. Don't wear a two-piece bathing suit.
  12. Don't wear short shorts
  13. Don't wear tight clothes.
  14. Don't show cleavage. 
  15. Basically, take the responsibility for the possible sins of any male in your vicinity. 
  16. At the same time, be sexually available to your husband whenever he wants, or at least very often. Also, this should be an instantaneous transition on your wedding night.  
  17. Be a stay-at-home mom. (I'm a SAHM now because I want to be, not because I have to be, which is why I enjoy it.)
  18. Wear dresses to church on Sunday.
  19. Go to church at least 3x/week. 
  20. Don't consider staying home from church just because you don't want to go.
  21. Do daily bible readings with your children.
  22. Do everything the Proverbs 31 woman does. And do it well.
  23. Volunteer in the nursery/VBS/children's church/youth group. 
  24. Make a casserole every few weeks for another family. 
  25. Use my talents for God (singing, writing, kid-slinging, pie-making, whatever). 
  26. Don't make out with boys.
  27. Don't even think about making out with girls, for that matter. 
  28. Invite every person at church to your birthday party. That's what Jesus would do.
  29. Don't do anything that might cause someone else to stumble. ANYTHING. (see 10-15)
  30. Wear Christian t-shirts to school. (What, are you ashamed of Jesus? No, that shirt is just ugly.)
  31. Tell everyone - EVERYONE - about Jesus, whether they want to  hear it or not. 
  32. Go on mission trips. 
  33. Go door-to-door evangelizing.
  34. Don't complain. 
  35. Don't worry. 
  36. Don't be scared. 
  37. Fast occasionally, without letting it be known. (Unfortunately for me, I am like a freaking psycho if I don't eat. Seriously.) 
  38. Don't ever refer to God as anything other than male.
I could probably go on for days. I made a serious effort to not put down things that other people tried to convince me to believe, but I never did (like no birth control at all, believe it or not!). 

I'm realizing that this is my problem. My problem is religion. My problem is the rules and regulations without the love and relationship.

The pastor said that, as Christians, we talk about these "seasons of life" that we just have to "push through." That's exactly what I've been trying to do, for months years way too long. Just push through. Just check off the things on the list, and someday, somehow I'll find my way back. Instead, he said, we need to approach God and His Word with the goal of just abiding in Him. To just BE with God. To set aside the academic and your hang-ups, and to just sit with God and enjoy His presence.

That has got to be my ticket back. I can't fight my way back. I can't push through my doubts. I can't check the things off my list and hope for the best. But, I can rest in His presence. I can BE who I am - doubts, failures, insecurities - and just BE with Him. This is how to get my head and my heart engaged. Sitting in God's presence will lead me to some of my answers, but more importantly, it will restore my heart. My heart feels dry and parched. It feels like someone who's been carrying a large burden through the desert. That burden is these rules, this religion. How did I miss that the first step to rehydrating is drinking from the Living Well? When Jesus first spoke of Living Water, He was talking to a woman who had been hurt by religion and only expected the worst from Him - a religious man, and He blew her expectations out of the water.

That Sunday, I felt like I'd been that dusty wanderer, wandering through the desert, a huge pack on my back, covered in sweat, and staring out at all these different possibilities, different paths to take. Not knowing where I was really headed or how to get there. This pastor said, "Here, look. There are tons of paths around here. All you have to do is follow this guy. Don't worry if you don't know the way yet. That's ok. Just take your time, and hang out with him, he knows this place like the back of his hand. And, hey, while you're going, enjoy the journey, have fun with your guide, he's pretty cool."

I turn to my guide, and he holds out his hand, and says, "Here. I'll take your pack. You just carry this water bottle. Have some."

Jesus said his yoke was light, while ours is heavy. I have to believe he was talking about religion - The Law. "Give me all your rules and checklists. That's all too much. Here, take mine, all you have to do is BE near me. I'll tell you when I want you to do this or that, but don't worry, you'll know." How have I been missing this all along? I've been in churches all my life that claimed to be "New Testament Churches," but I still felt bogged down and judged for my behavior and my choices, even small, simple things that are likely no one else's business. (Side note: Your pastor's kids are just that. Kids. And Not Yours. Please, stop them from running into traffic, or hitting your kid with their shoe, but don't tell them what to wear or how to think or what music they should like.)

I'm off to find joy in the journey, by just hanging with my Guide.

Also, you can go here to download the image below, which has been hanging next to my computer for months. Go figure.

Super Easy Chicken Casserole

This is the meal that I make pretty much every time I jump on the casserole-making-wagon for a new mom, or someone fresh from the hospital. It's easy-peasy, I've never heard a complaint, there's little chance of allergic reaction, and NotPasta. It's super easy to throw together, and I almost always have the stuff on hand for it, mostly because you can substitute just about every part of it (you'll see).

I was planning on posting this later this week, but my buddy Beth asked for our favorite go-to meals in her 5 Questions post, and she also says that writing is like life, and rarely goes according to plan. So, here's my chicken casserole, today instead of later.

  1. Take whatever size pan works for your family. I use a 9x9 for 2-5 people, a 9x13 for my family. 
  2. Put chicken breasts in the bottom. These can be frozen, trimmed, whatever you've got available.
  3. In another bowl, mix together one can of cream of something (chicken, celery, and mushroom all work) with a can of milk (refill the can with milk). If using a 9x13, you might want to use 2 cans. 
  4. If you want, throw in a frozen veggie. We've used peas (the fave around here), broccoli, green beans, asparagus, and corn. 
  5. Pour cream mixture over the chicken, making sure the chicken is covered. 
  6. Top this with cheese. Monterey Jack is our fave, but we've also used Colby Jack and Mozzarella with good results.
  7. Top the cheese with bread crumbs. Just enough to cover it. Unless you are my husband, who made this recipe recently. This is our conversation when I got home from work: Me: Wow, that's a lot of bread crumbs on top. Him: Yeah, but you normally use about half of a can, right? Me: Well, yes, but that's when we don't buy the can from Costco. (It still tasted good, so don't worry about the amount!) 
  8. Cook @ 350 about 1 hour, longer if the chicken was frozen.
Seriously, my kids all love it. It's reasonably nutritious (more so if you're not using pre-made cream of chicken and bread crumbs, but do what works for you). It also works to freeze or refrigerate and cook later.  What more can you ask for from a casserole?

Update 4/2/13: I cooked this tonight, and decided to take a picture for this post. I went to get my camera, and came back to this!

SAHM Checklist

I've been trying to get organized lately. Which, for me, means lots of checklists. They help me. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can check something off of a list.

I'm also a brand-new SAHM (that's Stay-At-Home-Mom, if you're unaware). Ok, well, I had several practice runs, aka summers, because I was a teacher. But, I always viewed that as a vacation, a time to breathe slowly for as long as possible, because once the schoolyear starts it's a marathon to the end of the year. So it was a bit different.

I've been pinning lots of cute organizational thingys and even printing and using a few. Then, I decided I needed my own checklist. (Now I just need someone with skills to make it all cutesy for me. Anyone?)

Here goes:

  1. Get out of bed, even though all you really want to do is snuggle with kids and watch cartoons all day.
  2. Get big kids to school.
  3. Get big kids to school on time!  (that seriously deserves its own checkmark, amirite?)
  4. Feed kids breakfast.
  5. Feed kids lunch (school lunch counts).
  6. Feed kids dinner.
  7. Feed kids a snack.
  8. Feed anyone that is not your child, including yourself.
  9. Extra checkmark if one of those fits into your definition of truly healthy.
  10. Extra checkmark if you actually made a school kid's lunch and put it in a lunchbox. And by "you," I mean anybody in your house that's not a Lunchable. (you still get a checkmark, just not an extra one, k?) And by "lunchbox" I mean anything the kid can use to get the lunch to school - shopping bag, paper bag, actual lunchbox, styrofoam doggie bag/box, whatever. 
  11. Extra checkmark if anyone sat at the table with anyone else.
  12. Extra Extra checkmark if the whole family sits at the table and eats together. 
  13. Stop and listen to at least one child while they're telling you something incredibly long and boring interesting to them.
  14. Get the kids to play out of doors for at least 20 minutes.
  15. You get out of doors for at least 10 minutes. 
  16. Accomplish any one thing on a typical "cleaning list."
  17. Take all the kids anywhere.
  18. Shower.
  19. Wear real clothes (you define.)
  20. Wear make-up (or "do" your hair, whatever you want that feels like a little extra).
  21. Fit in some form of exercise.
  22. Take a deep breath for yourself.
  23. Keep kids alive. 

There. A checklist that is actually do-able. What would you add?

Lost at Sea

I've got 7 drafts unpublished, and 2 tabs open with my blog on them. All unfinished.

A friend suggested a method for getting through writer's block. It was a good idea. But I knew it was not what I needed.

What I need are answers. And I don't have any. Writing is my therapy. My soul pours through my fingers to the virtual page. Writing is where I figure out what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling.

But, I can't figure that out right now.

Deep within, I feel like my writing is my gift. Whether I do it for me or for you or for God, I feel like it's a gift given to me by Him.

I haven't been able to write because I haven't felt Him. I feel like I've been having a one-sided conversation for months, maybe even years now. From the first time since I was a teen when I allowed myself to doubt, I've been on shaky ground. At times, it's been more solid than others. Those are usually the times that I write. - the times that I'm confident enough to put my emotions and thoughts out there. Because, once I'm certain of them, I don't have to worry so much about how they will affect others.

I don't remember what that solid ground feels like right now. I feel like I'm on a boat, drifting this way and that, to the right and to the left. Alone and lost.

Thing is, I've had this compass right next to me the whole time. I glance towards it from time to time, and then I consult others and see what they think this compass says. I'm afraid to look for myself. The times that I have looked at it, I've not looked long. I've not looked with my heart and my emotions in the game. It was purely intellectual, only academic.

I'm afraid I'll read it wrong and go the wrong way, that I'll misunderstand and go in the wrong direction and run over people in the process. That I'll head in what I think is the right direction only to find myself headed straight for rocks again. And I'm even more afraid I'll read it right and still not know which way to go. I'm afraid that I'll look at that compass and see that it's broken, false, untrue. If that happens, it seems my entire boat will crumble before my eyes. I'll drown, taking others with me. My husband, my children, my family. They may come out alive, but not without scars.

I'm afraid that I'll open up my Bible and not be able to reconcile The Old with The New. The Judge with The Lover. The Lawmaker with The Radical. I'm afraid I'll open that Bible with fresh eyes and those eyes won't like what they see. What then?

What now? There's no living this way, floating endlessly. Sure there are blue skies and beautiful water at times, but there's got to be more to life than floating through it. I need Truth to guide me.

What I took for granted is that I don't have to have my entire course planned out. I'm a thinker, a lister, a planner. It seems ridiculous to take a trip and not know where you're going! (Seriously, this Mama to 5 freaks out at the thought: What clothes would we bring? What extras? How many outfits? We better not need passports! What about medicine? Food? What will be available where we're going? ... You don't ever want to be around when I'm packing for a family vacation.)  I already told you I recently read this post: "The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart" by Rachel Held Evans, one of my new favorite feminist Christian authors.

Wait, what? She's been asking these kinds of questions for 10 years? She's been in this sea for 10 years and not found land. But she's ok with it. Because she's being true to her heart and her head, which I didn't realize was my battle until the moment I read that. My heart so desperately searches for God, but my head understands so little of Him.

So I turn to the compass. What have I got to lose?

My Tiny Little Faith and I

The familiar words wrapped around me like my favorite childhood blanket. I stood in church, singing the words, enjoying the melody, but tormented on the inside. Something inside of me burst out, "Oh, how I wish I could believe like I used to again."  I prayed that same prayer I've been praying for so long I can't even remember: "Please. Just show me. Show me that You care about all of this. Show me how the God of the Old and The New are the same. Because, honestly, I'm just not seeing it right now, God." 

What's funny is this prayer is so much closer to the intended meaning of the word "prayer" than nearly any other prayer I've routinely said as an adult. There's earnestness. A deep desire for truth. A heart searching for a response. Pleading for some small answer.

My prayers of the past were much more like rubbing a lamp for the magic genie. "Lord, please help me with this." "Lord, please heal that person." I'm ashamed to admit I even prayed to find the right size of the right color at department stores, or for the kids to just find their stinking shoes! And truly believed it was God when it happened. What a silly little faith that was. How useless to anyone. Do I even want to worship a God who cares about if I get the shirt I want? I don't know. Especially while I know there are so many more things that need a big God to fix them.

There was a  part of me that thought that I don't even need the truth anymore, just a conviction, and I could move forward. But I know that's not true. I've tried that. I've told myself that this is what I've chosen and there's no changing that now. What would it do to my family, my life, my kids if I suddenly decided I didn't want to be a part of this Christian life anymore? I don't see how me "being true to myself" would do anything good for my kids. So I shoved the thoughts, doubts, and fears down. Told myself to just believe.

I tried it again a few Sundays ago. My little conscience on my right shoulder whispering, "Just believe. That's what faith is."

Suddenly, as if I had just woken up, I told that conscience NO. No. I can't "just believe" in a God I don't know. I can't have faith in a God I don't understand. I don't have to understand everything. We're not talking about knowing my entire future. We're talking about understanding something fundamental. Is the God I worship one of anger and revenge? Or love and peace? Or, somehow, both? If it's the latter, I need to see how. I need to understand how this puzzle fits together. Or I can't do it. I can't simply force myself to have faith when my doubts are so huge. I don't care if I understand the Trinity or the Virgin Birth. But I have to - need to - understand the person of God. I need to know if he cares about me and my daily life. I need to know if he punishes Pharoah when He was the One who "hardened his heart."

It's as if I've had this Tiny Little Faith that I thought I just needed to boss around. Then, that day, my Tiny Little Faith gave me the finger and threatened to leave if I didn't start listening to her. So, I'm listening.

As Rachel Held Evans wrote in this blogpost: "The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart": "The bravest decision I’ll ever make is the decision to follow Jesus with both my head and heart engaged—no checking out, no pretending."

That hit me like a ton of bricks. If I don't have both my head and my heart fully engaged in following God, if I just try to bully around my Tiny Little Faith without trusting the legitimate questions I had in my heart - then I was just pretending. That's not authentic faith. It's playing at being a Christian.

I'm also going to follow some of my other favorite bloggers (Beth Woolsey, writing Five Kids is A Lot of Kids at www.putdowntheurinalcake.com and Fiona Merrick, writing Tea With A Friend at www.teawithafriend.co.uk) and just throw my insecurities, my doubts, and my fears out there. I'm not even sure why, other than, reading these other women's doubts made me feel like mine were just a little less scandalous. Maybe because life - even the confusing, doubtful parts - is so much better when done together.

Let's walk this path together, friends.

A Woman Divided

Well, at least my last week at work won't leave me with feelings of regret.

I've got sick kids.

And a sick husband.

I'm dropping balls at home.

And at work.

I've got teacher drama.

And more teacher drama. (The second of which, admittedly, I got myself into. Sometimes I just can't leave "well enough" alone.)

I've got a huge stack of essays.

With more on the way.

And, despite hubby completely catching up two days ago, a decent-sized pile of laundry.

My attention is constantly divided. Wondering how the kids are while I'm at work. Grading essays while I'm at home.

That, right there, is the big problem. At least if I'm only doing one, I won't feel so divided. Tonight, I came home from work, unloading the bags of gingerale and bananas, and fought back tears of exhaustion as I thought, "Ok. I'm home. Now for diaper duty, making dinner, baths, and grading essays." So, instead it will be, "OMG. I feel like I have done nothing today but change diapers!" I get that. Believe me, I do. (I have summers off, remember.) But, oh, to not feel like I'm being torn in two all the time. 

This week is kind-of reminding me of all the reasons I'm leaving. To hold my babies when they're sick. To sit on the floor and read a book to them when they ask. To not have to grade stacks of half-decent essays, wondering where I went wrong and how I can possibly manage to do more. To not have to deal with grown adults acting like the age they teach. (Oh, you mean I can't get away from adult drama? Darn. Couldn't let a girl have a little bubble for even a minute!) To combine those two loves, and instill in my children a love for learning. To at least feel like one part of my life is getting all of me, instead of spreading halves way too thin.

And I know I chose the right half (for us). My family will benefit so much more from having all of me than the school district would from keeping the half. There, I'm just another cog in the wheel. Here, I'm irreplaceable. 

P.S. This is the right choice for us. I wouldn't dream of saying I know what's right for anyone else. 

Hello, 2013!

New Year's Resolutions are kind-of a dirty word to some people. I actually really like the idea of them, though. I think it's helpful to make some goals for the next year. Some of my resolutions are more important than others, and I give myself the freedom to abandon them if I truly feel it's best that I do. With that said, here are my 2012 Resolutions:
  1. Kiss all my family members good morning and good night each day (or as many of us who are sleeping in the same house). 
  2. Run in a 5k, then decide if I want to run in a half-marathon. 
  3. Become healthier. The goal is to lose 75 lbs, but that may not be completed this year, as I'm breastfeeding, and want to make real change in my life. So, any weight loss will count, as will being able to run farther, play longer, eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. 
  4. Count one thousand gifts that God has given me. Like I said, I started this in March, while reading the book, but this year, there's a whole community of people doing it with me. Read this post for more details. Will you join us? 
  5. Be realistic.  
  1. Meh. I probably did this about 75% of the time. I actually completely forgot that it was a resolution until about two days ago. I'm confident that every person in my family knows I love them, though, so I'm not too worried about it. 
  2. Great! I ran in a 5k at the end of January! I rand that distance many more times over the course of the year. I worked towards running a half, but ended up quitting ultimately after a car accident in August. For a long time, I couldn't run more than 3 miles without being in extreme pain. I got mad and gave up. After that, though, I decided I like running 2-3 miles. I have 5 kids. I don't want to take hours each day to go running. The best part is: I'm absolutely ok with that. 
  3. Good. I am healthier, though nowhere near my goal of 75 lbs. I lost about 20 lbs by August. I gained about 10 back in September, and have been struggling ever since. That's also the time frame that I quit running, moved, and went back to work unexpectedly. So, I'm calling progress good enough. (see #5)
  4. Awful. Not even close. I'm not so good at sticking with things like this. I might try again this year.
  5. Good. This, like the health one, is a work in progress. I'm better at it now than I used to be, and I'll take that. 
2013 Resolutions (updated with results, 12/31/2013):
Enjoy the journey. I want to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy playtime with the kids. I don't want to miss all the little things that make life amazing. (With this, I may choose to write moments down and continue counting 1000 gifts.)
I did really well on this one for the first part of the year, when I was staying home with my kids. Then, life happened, and I had to go back to work. That obviously made it harder, but it is definitely something that is constantly on my mind to do more of. I call that progress.

Read one piece of classic literature each month. Also, if I find that I hate a classic (I'm looking at you, Anna Karenina), give myself permission to drop it and find another one. I'd also love to start or join a book club to do this with other bibliophiles. 
Again, I did this for the first half of the year, until I went back to work. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have usually read YA literature during the school year (it's light, and it gives me recommendations for my students), and the heavier stuff on breaks. I'll stick with that this year. 
Be healthier. This year, the goal is about 60 lbs, and a much more active lifestyle. I'll be happy with 30 lbs, and/or lasting changes. I've decided that I don't care how long it takes, I just want to be healthier each year. But, I also want to give myself a measurable outcome, hence the weight loss. I want to exercise more, eat more real food and less processed junk. Most importantly, I want to respect my body for what it is and what it can do right now.
I have made definite progress here, though not in the area of weight. Sometime this year, I discovered some encouraging bloggers like Go Kaleo, who taught me all about being strong and not falling prey to fad diets. I've embraced some important mantras like "Take up Space," "Do The Work" and "Eat The Food." I feel like I've truly learned moderation. Get this: I've had 2 of my favorite chocolate bars in my desk at work for weeks (before break - break doesn't count, obviously). I'm much better at not eating my emotions, and I don't hate my body as much as I used to. It's a process. 

Write more. I want to write a book this year. I also want to blog 2-3 times a week. This year, I want to call myself a writer and not feel like a fraud. 
Yeah. Big fat fail here. 

Know God more. Lately, I've felt like I don't know the true God at all. It seems like the God I worshiped in childhood is not a God I want to worship. I'm not saying I'm changing my religion, but rather that I'm learning new things about who God is. I'm abandoning religion in favor of seeking the Truth. I'm still talking about the "Christian" God here, I'm just saying I may have been looking at God all wrong. There'll be more blog posts about that later.
When I first went to look at these, I thought I'd be disappointed about whatever spiritual thing I put down. But I'm not. It's been a struggle, this relationship with God, this year. But, I feel like I'm moving forward, however slowly. Again, it's a process. 
So, basically, my resolutions are about enjoying life more. Doing things that I love, and that make me feel good. It's also going to be about deciding who I am and being ok with that. 2012 showed me that I'm not a marathon runner. I'm ok with that. I may not like a whole bunch of classics. I'm ok with that. I may completely change my relationship with God. I want that. This one's not working well for me, to be quite honest. I want to decide who I am as a writer, experiment and define my style. I turn 30 this year, I guess it's time I figure out who I am. ha! 

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? If so, share them!